A bill allowing the starvation and dehydration of dementia and mentally ill patients against their will passed the Oregon Senate 17-13 on June 8.
Oregon Right to Life has been battling SB494 since it was introduced, warning it’s a “devious” bill that’s “craftily written so as to hide its true intent.”
SB494 would remove safeguards in Oregon law that protect the right of patients to receive food and water as part of basic treatment. It would give healthcare representatives power to potentially coerce doctors into starving patients against their will.
Under current Oregon law, if it’s unclear what a mentally incompetent person desires or wants, the person’s healthcare representative does not have the authority to end the incompetent person’s life unless the person is in a specific end-of-life situation.
SB494 was introduced after a dispute between the husband of an Alzheimer’s patient and her nursing home. The patient, Nora Harris, had filled out an advance directive saying she didn’t want to be fed intravenously.
She began needing helping using utensils. Harris could still eat with her hands and was still expressing a desire to eat.
Her husband filed a lawsuit to get her nursing home to stop feeding her.
The nursing home, Fern Gardens, said it would not force Harris to eat but that it only wanted to continue providing her the option of basic food and water. Mr. Harris lost; the Harris family maintains that their mother would want to be starved and dehydrated rather than live in such a state.
The way advance directives currently work in Oregon preserves Oregonians’ ability to receive food and hydration even if they lose mental competency. SB494 would undermine this.
“In spite of amendments, SB494 remains a deadly bill,” Gayle Atteberry, executive director of Oregon Right to Life, told LifeSiteNews via email. “It is a tragedy that the liberal senators believed the talking points of the big insurance companies and right-to-die proponents about this bill.”
Atteberry said SB494 was sold “as a basic ‘update’ to Oregon law. The reality is that it will remove current safeguards in Oregon’s advance directive statute that protect conscious patients’ access to ordinary food and water when they no longer have the ability to make decisions about their own care.”